Relocations: Misconstruing the real and present danger

A drought has caused significant lowering of the level of the Mississippi River, causing significant disruptions in shipping. Image from PBS NewsHour report
November 18, 2022

Given the power of our military-industrial complex and our reluctance to let go of the notion that God has appointed the U.S. to run the world, we will continue to prepare for war and so will China

By Herbert Rothschild

The datelines of the following news dispatches could be switched without altering their applicability.

  • This summer the X has reached record-low water levels, with entire sections and dozens of tributaries drying up. On the Y conditions have sent water lines receding to near-record levels.
  • Water flow on the X’s main trunk is more than 50% below the average of the last five years. Shipping routes in the middle and lower sections have closed. Industry estimates cited by the federal government show the drought has reduced the flow of goods (on Y) by about 45%.
  • Drinking water has been trucked into areas where residential supplies have completely dried up. Some communities have moved to alternate sources of drinking water.
Herbert Rothschild

My X stands for the Yangtze River in China, my Y for the Mississippi River in the U.S. I excerpted the reports about the Yantgtze from an article in the Guardian of August 22, those about the Mississippi from Fox News on November 3.

Alarmingly low water hasn’t been limited to those two rivers. I could have extracted similar reports from dispatches about the Colorado, the Rhine and the Parana (Argentina). I chose the Yangtze and the Mississippi because the U.S. regards China as the main threat to its security, and China mirrors that assessment. Given that the common threat to both nations is so obvious, so large and so imminent, any sane person would find it astonishing that they are expending their time and a vast portion of their resources preparing for a military showdown.

But they are. War may not come. Joe Biden, who keeps surprising us with his accomplishments, met with China’s Leader Xi Jinping for three hours Monday at the G-20 summit in Bali, after which he announced that there “need not be a cold war” between the two nations. Nonetheless, given the power of our military-industrial complex and our reluctance to let go of the notion that the U.S. should dominate world affairs, we will continue to prepare and so will China.

Last week, Xi Jinping was pictured on the front page of the People’s Daily in his army uniform addressing members of the People’s Liberation Army. Xi said the army must “comprehensively strengthen military training in preparation for war,” having warned at the recent 20th Party Congress of “dangerous storms” on the horizon. “Focus all (your) energy on fighting, work hard on fighting and improve (your) capability to win,” he was quoted as saying.

The U.S. was preparing for war with China years before Xi issued his call for a similar preparedness. In a 2011 address to the Australian Parliament, then-President Obama announced his “Pacific pivot,” a redirection of military forces away from Europe and the Middle East to counter a rising China. It turned out that he couldn’t bring himself to end our destructive and futile military involvement in the Middle East, but the U.S. war machine is so vast and well-funded that we didn’t need to make hard choices. The “pivot” gave the Pentagon the green light to plan for war with China and begin conditioning the U.S. public to accept it as inevitable.

Thus, in the 2022 National Defense Strategy, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is deemed the “pacing challenge” for the U.S. military. As Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin says in the preface, “The PRC remains our most consequential strategic competitor for the coming decades. I have reached this conclusion based on the PRC’s increasingly coercive actions to reshape the Indo-Pacific region and the international system to fit its authoritarian preferences, alongside a keen awareness of the PRC’s clearly stated intentions and the rapid modernization and expansion of its military. As President Biden’s National Security Strategy notes, the PRC is ‘the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order, and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do so.’”

And what does this document say about climate change? In the section entitled “Security Environment,” it’s listed as the last of seven threats (the PRC being No. 1). “(C)hanges in global climate and other dangerous transboundary threats are already transforming the context in which the department operates. Increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and more frequent extreme weather conditions will affect basing and access while degrading readiness, installations, and capabilities.” In other words, climate change is a problem for the military, not that the military is part of the problem of climate change. 

In “Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War,” Neta C. Crawford, co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University, calculated that between 2001 and 2017, the U.S. military emitted 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases. As General David Petraeus said in 2011, “Energy is the lifeblood of our warfighting capabilities.”

Distressing as military pollution may be—and emissions are only one way our armed forces degrade the environment—it’s not the main point. The main point is that the U.S. public and its leaders long ago began to think of national security exclusively in military terms, and the military-industrial complex has made sure that we never seriously rethink that assumption.

The U.S. has a huge military presence in the Far East because we have regarded much of the Asian Pacific Rim as part of our domain since World War II ended. That China, which exists there, wishes to challenge the U.S. Navy in the waters off its coast is neither surprising nor evidence of the dream of building a military empire to rival ours. Xi Jinping may have such an ambition, but long before he could realize it, the strength of both nations will have been drained by an enemy more powerful than both.

Herbert Rothschild is an unpaid Ashland.news board member. Opinions expressed in columns represent the author’s views and may or may not reflect those of Ashland.news. Email Rothschild at herbertrothschild6839@gmail.com.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.


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